Donald Trump told us recently that the Bible is his favorite book. Ted Cruz announced, rather unoriginally, that God speaks through the Bible. Cruz père has declared that the Bible establishes criteria for political electability. Sarah Palin dreams of enacting Biblical law in the United States, and ponders her own biblical magnitude.
Faith-fiend Rowan County (Kentucky) clerk Kim Davis purports to be defending “biblical marriage” by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but she would do well to check and see just what biblical matrimony actually looks like. Even Hillary Clinton looks at the Bible and thinks “It’s alive!” and has apparently spent a lot of time studying it.
These politicians are hardly alone in supersizing the Good Book’s stature. The masses throughout history have used their cash and credit cards to assert the Bible’s primacy; they have, in fact, made it the best-selling book of all time, though Guinness World Records commits the unpardonable error of listing it in the non-fiction category. Fantasy would have been a better choice, if fantasy of a particularly absurdist bent.
Yes, absurdist. The Bible is brimming with rank absurdities that insult our intelligence and affront our dignity as twenty-first-century, post-Enlightenment humans residing in one of the most developed countries on Earth.
Such absurdities include, exempli gratia, the following:
1. Our soi-disant “savior” was born not following intercourse between a man and a woman, but as a result of God “debauching” (to use Thomas Paine’s word) an unconsenting (per Matthew) virgin two millennia ago. (By today’s standards, Mary would be entitled to file sexual assault charges against the Lord, all the more so since He, according to the Bible, must have been at least four thousand years her senior, and occupied a position of authority over her. Imagine the settlement she could get!)
2. This “savior” derived his standing from his filial relationship to an invisible, inaudible, altogether undetectable supernatural being we now understand would have to hover above us in the minus-455-degree-Fahrenheit vacuum of outer space that exists beyond the Earth’s Thermosphere, a region formerly known as “heaven.”
3. Said “savior” wandered about Middle Eastern territory under Roman occupation allegedly performing scientifically impossible deeds (raising people from the dead, sashaying across a body of H2O, influencing meteorological phenomena, curing chronic diseases in an era before sanitary wipes, and so on).
4. A thrice-repeated ornithological omen presaged betrayal of said “savior,” who then, after a supper with close associates (known now as “apostles”) that involved the ingestion of flour-based baked goods and grape alcohol, suffered an unspeakably ghastly death, and yet managed to resuscitate himself and officiate at a number of colloquies with the aforementioned associates.
5. Bizarrely, and certainly suspiciously, not one of the “savior’s” close associates thought to publish memoirs of said colloquies or even take notes, thereby leaving the so-called Word, purportedly critical for the salvation of our species, to be recorded by unknown scribes decades later. Worse, the “savior” spoke Aramaic and probably some Hebrew, but his eventual, long-after-the-factoid biographers wrote in Koine (common) Greek. The result: a mishmash of inconsistent accounts (the Gospels) that were composed in a language other than the original, and eventually translated into English, that, beautiful as it may be in the King James version, is nevertheless replete with errors. Subsequent interpretations may have eliminated some of these mistakes, but not the contradictions in the Gospels.
(One wonders, as an aside, if Jesus were really such an up-to-snuff savior, couldn’t he have vetted his apostles a bit more thoroughly?)
It outrages common sense to be asked to accept the Bible, bristling with improbable inanities and known inconsistencies, as authoritative in any way -- and much less as some sort of public-policy guidebook. An inevitable question arises as to the Lord’s competence: If He was so smart, why would He have chosen to communicate with us through such a shoddily composed tome? And a lot of time has passed. Given all the confusion and conflict nowadays over religious matters, why hasn’t He issued an updated edition? Why doesn’t He at least have His own website or Facebook page? He doesn’t even tweet! Some Lord.
Seriously, though, it insults our intelligence to be enjoined to believe, now that we have split the atom, discovered the Higgs Boson, and sent a probe to Pluto, in the veracity of a supernatural account of the origins of our cosmos.
It insults our intelligence to be enjoined to believe, now that we have mapped the human genome and fathomed our manifest kinship to other species of the animal kingdom, that a supernatural being verbally conjured us into existence.
It insults our intelligence that we are expected to believe, even venerate, all the rubbish found in the Bible, a book written -- no one disputes -- by mere humans. After all, humans have always been self-interested, and given to exaggeration, confabulation and outright lying. Who’s to say that the authors of the Bible didn’t just make it all up?
At least one American Biblical scholar makes a case for just that. Joseph Atwill has constructed a damning case for Christianity’s utter and thorough fabrication, and for the basest, most vulgar motive of all: the control and exploitation of one set of humans (the Jewish population of Palestine) by another -- their Roman overlords at the time. In Atwill’s (controversial, yet well-documented) telling, the Romans concocted Christianity to replace Judaism with a faith that commanded their recalcitrant imperial subjects to give what is Caesar’s to Caesar. To obey the authorities, that is.
According to Atwill, Jesus “may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources. Once those sources are all laid bare, there’s simply nothing left.” The Roman faith-fraudsters, as he has it, had little trouble in coming up with an ideology ordering submission to the state and generating the requisite savior (already expected, per the Judaic canon) by melding elements from Judaism and paganism (for example, the dying and resurrected god, a run-of-the-mill mythological trope, it turns out). They then back-dated their “sacred” text to ensure its “prophecies” came true and that it supported the rule of the newly instated Flavian dynasty, which succeeded Nero. The Romans were none too subtle, attributing to the savior the name Jesus Christ -- a combination decoding, in Hebrew and Greek, as “God [the] Messiah.” Not exactly the kind of name humble Joseph and meek Mary would have been inclined to give their kid.
As for the Church itself, reputedly left by Jesus in the hands of his associate Peter (quite an irresponsible move, given that this same Pete denied him thrice), it arose most notably not in the Middle East, but in Rome. (We’ll leave aside Orthodox Christianity, which would be headquartered in Constantinople, or present-day Istanbul, which would also be no coincidence.) Please, again, nota bene: the Church’s command-and-control center would end up in Rome, capital of the same empire, of course, trying to legitimize its rule in Palestine.
Atwill’s conclusion: "The biography of Jesus is actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar." In other words, no such person as Jesus ever walked the Earth (or, obviously, ascended to into the Thermosphere).
Is Atwill’s thesis correct? Richard Dawkins tweeted that was “worth a look.” Controversy has, as would be expected, dogged “Caesar’s Messiah,” the resulting book. Atwill stands by it.
When evaluating what Atwill contends, keep in mind that a recent study of 126 historical texts failed to corroborate Jesus’ existence, and concluded that he was a mere “mythical character.” More broadly, remember that any ideology mandating submission to authority favors, well, the authorities. Recall how comprehensive the ordained submission was (or is) to be: child to parent, wife to husband, husband and wife to state (and, in the past, a state in cahoots with the Church) and in just whose interest submission would be. Don’t forget how immensely useful such ideology is to warmongers, even today. And never lose sight of how proponents of all this “divine” balderdash aim to meddle in your lives, tell you (and especially women) how to behave, and limit your rights, be they reproductive and marriage rights, the right to die with dignity, or the right to teach the truth in school science classes.
Most of all, when considering what to make of the Bible, ask yourselves (if you have any doubts, and I hope by now you don’t), which is more probable, that a supernatural tyrant impregnated a hapless virgin and orchestrated the assassination of the resulting offspring to “save” us? Or that clever, power-hungry swindlers devised a useful scheme by which to dupe the masses into submission?
Is it any surprise that the political agenda promoted by the Republicans involves restricting liberties, and, not coincidentally, taking from the poor and giving to the rich? That since at least the Eisenhower years, much of Big Business has been behind the Christian right?
If we reject the Bible, we are left with one conclusion: no respect can be accorded to the cult of Christianity. No credibility can attach to any organization in based on, trafficking in, or promoting this cult. No individuals, be they popes, priests, or pastors, merit deference when acting in their official capacity. No policy, be it regarding contraception, biological research, abortion, marriage, or the right to die, should enjoy our favor if it takes as its basis doctrines arising from this cult. No tax advantages (exemptions, that is, or de facto subsidies) should accrue to any organization claiming Christ as its raison d’être.
And no politicians flaunting their religion or pandering to the faithful should be trusted. They are not working for the common good.
They have no shame. After all, the Lord, they think, is on their side.